The World Food Prize Foundation

Ambassador Quinn receives Army Air Medal; likely the first civilian to receive military honor


UPDATED January 19, 2009 - Ambassador Kenneth Quinn receives Air Medal

    Foundation president may be only civilian to receive this military decoration for service in combat

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, Ambassador Kenneth Quinn, and Congressman Leonard Boswell at the January 13 ceremony in Washington D.C. MORE PHOTOS HERE

 UPDATED January 19, 2009 - Ambassador Kenneth M. Quinn, president of the World Food Prize Foundation, was honored with ceremonies in Washington, D.C. and Des Moines for his receipt of the Army Air Medal.

Quinn is likely the first civilian to ever be presented with this military decoration.

According to Lee Stanley, Commanding Officer of the Air Medal Society, the society is unaware of any other occasion in which a civilian has received this honor.

“It is very, very rare that a civilian would receive the Air Medal, and this may in fact be the only time it has happened,” Stanley said. “Ambassador Quinn has truly distinguished himself in this regard.”

Congressman Leonard Boswell, himself a recipient of the Air Medal for his services as a helicopter pilot in Vietnam, was instrumental in getting the Air Medal approved for Quinn. Boswell first announced the Air Medal during the 2008 World Food Prize events. “Ambassador Quinn exposed himself to hostile fire many, many times and went out and saved lives and took care of things that needed to be done under extreme situations,” Boswell said at the time. “What a great patriot.” (Hear Congressman Boswell's complete remarks)


VIDEO: Amb. Quinn's remarks from Des Moines ceremony


AUDIO: Congressman Leonard Boswell's remarks at 2008 World Food Prize

Official Air Medal Citation

Senator Tom Harkin's statement for the Congressional Record

Des Moines Register:
"In unusual step,
envoy given military medal"


“I am extremely grateful for Congressman Boswell’s efforts on my behalf,” Quinn said. “Receiving the Air Medal is a terrific honor, and one that I never expected to receive as a civilian Foreign Service Officer. Modern warfare, however, produces unusual situations where civilians can be directly involved in military conflict.”

Quinn was formally presented the award Tuesday, January 13 by U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte in Washington, D.C. “for distinguishing himself by meritorious achievement during sustained aerial operational activities against hostile forces in the Republic of Vietnam during the period of May 1970 to December 1970.” During this time, Quinn participated in over 25 aerial missions over hostile enemy territory as a civilian Foreign Service Officer.

At a separate ceremony held Friday, January 19 in Des Moines, Quinn was honored by Rep. Boswell, John Ruan III, retired Army Brigadier General Tommy Thompson, and others.

Quinn’s diplomatic career spanned almost 32 years, culminating in his appointment as U.S. Ambassador to the Kingdom of Cambodia from 1996-1999. He assumed leadership of the World Food Prize Foundation on January 1, 2000 and has since greatly expanded the scope and prestige of what has been referred to as “the Nobel Prize for Food and Agriculture.” Quinn’s complete bio can be found here.

The Air Medal was authorized by President Franklin Roosevelt in1942. It is awarded to “any person who, while serving in any capacity in or with the U.S. Army, will have distinguished himself or herself by meritorious achievement while participating in aerial flight.”

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